If Paterno knew about ’98, then he wasn’t some aging granddad who was deceived, but a canny and unfeeling power broker who put protecting his reputation ahead of protecting children.
If he knew about ’98, then he understood the import of graduate assistant Mike McQueary’s distraught account in 2001 that he witnessed Sandusky assaulting a boy in the Penn State showers.
If he knew about ’98, then he also perjured himself before a grand jury.
Paterno didn’t always give lucid answers in his final interview conducted with The Washington Post eight days before his death, but on this point he was categorical and clear as a bell. He pled total, lying ignorance of the ’98 investigation into a local mother’s claim Sandusky had groped her son in the shower at the football building. How could Paterno have no knowledge of this, I asked him?
“Nobody knew,” he said.
Never heard a rumor?
“I never heard a thing,” he said.
He heard everything.
“If Jerry’s guilty, nobody found out till after several incidents.”
Not a whisper? How is that possible?
Paterno’s account of himself is flatly contradicted in damning detail by ex FBI-director Louis Freeh’s report. In a news conference Thursday, Freeh charged that Paterno, along with athletic director Timothy Curley, university president Graham Spanier and vice president Gary Schultz, engaged in a cover-up, “an active agreement of concealment.”
Paterno was not only aware of the ’98 investigation but followed it “closely” according to Freeh. As did the entire leadership of Penn State. E-mails and confidential notes by Schultz about the progress of the inquiry prove it. “Behavior — at best inappropriate @ worst sexual improprieties,” Schultz wrote. “At min – Poor Judgment.” Schultz also wrote, “Is this opening of pandora’s box?” and “Other children?”
A May 5, 1998 e-mail from Curley to Schultz and Spanier was titled “Joe Paterno” and it says, “I have touched base with the coach. Keep us posted. Thanks.”
A second e-mail dated May 13 1998 from Curley to Schultz is titled “Jerry” and it says, “Anything new [in] this department? Coach is anxious to know where it stands.”
There is only one aspect in which the Freeh report does not totally destroy Paterno’s pretension of honesty. It finds no connection between the ’98 investigation and Sandusky’s resignation from Paterno’s staff in ’99. The report also suggests that Paterno genuinely believed the police had found no evidence of a crime.